Harper bringing 15th-ranked Lady Vols back to national prominence, eying SEC championship
By: Dallas Bowlin
Senior Staff Writer
The All Vol Call in Show
We are days away from the beginning of year three for the Tennessee Lady Vols under Head Coach Kellie Harper. Coming off a 17-8 record in the regular season, and a second round exit in the NCAA tournament, the Lady Vols will look to continue to build the brand back to where it was in the glory days under Head Coach Pat Summitt.
Key departures from last year’s squad: Guard Rennia Davis who averaged 17.3 points per game, along with Center Kasiyahna Kushkituah who averaged 6.8 points per game, and Guard Destiny Salary who averaged 2.0 points per game
When Rennia Davis went to the WNBA Draft the Lady Vols lost one of, if not their best scorer. Coach Harper did look to the transfer portal, but mostly decided to bring in freshmen to help carry the load. Time will tell if that was a smart decision.
Alexus Dye - Dye is a graduate transfer, senior forward from Troy. Dye was awarded the 2021 Sun Belt Conference Player of The Year, along with the Most Outstanding Player of The Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Coming off a season in which she averaged 16.6 points, and 12.6 rebounds per game for an NCAA-leading 23 double doubles, Dye will bring an immediate post and rebounding presence to help make up for the loss of Kushkituah.
Brooklyn Miles - Miles is an incoming three-star freshman guard from Franklin County, Kentucky. At five feet-six inches tall, Miles is an explosive guard who can create shots for her teammates, and herself as a 1-on-1 isolation player. She will be an aggressive defender who gets into the passing lanes and helps create fast break opportunities for the Tennessee offense.
Sara Puckett - Puckett is an incoming four-star forward, and 2021 Alabama Girls Basketball Player of The Year. Known for her face up ability in the high post, Sara is also quick enough to play in an up tempo offense where she can catch and shoot from the perimeter. She is also no slouch when it comes to working the glass and cleaning up rebounds.
Karoline Striplin - Striplin is also an incoming four-star forward from Alabama. Karoline brings an aggressive interior game, with nice footwork down on the low block. Consistently finish’s in the paint with a nice touch around the rim. With a work in progress face up game, Striplin is the best of both worlds when it comes to traditional, and modern age post players.
Kaiya Wynn - Wynn is an incoming four-star guard from Richmond, Texas. She is your prototypical explosive guard, with college ready physical attributes. Can take a hit and finish tough shots around the rim. At five feet- ten inches she is able to be active as a guard on the glass, and help start fast break opportunities faster than most who battle for rebounds.
Key Returning players:
Rae Burrell: Guard - 16.8 PPG, 4.6 REB, 1.8 AST. 45.8% FG.
Tamari Key: Center - 8.9 PPG, 5.6 REB, 0.5 AST, 2.9 BLK. 62.8% FG.
Jordan Horston: Guard - 8.6 PPG, 3.9 REB, 4.2 AST. 35.0% FG.
Keyen Green: Forward - 6.8 PPG, 3.0 REB, 0.3 AST. 52.6% FG.
Jordan Walker: Guard- 5.4 PPG, 4.5 REB, 2.3 AST. 33.8% FG.
Marta Suarez: Guard- 4.1 PPG, 3.6 REB, 0.8 AST. 40.7% FG.
Tess Darby: Guard - 2.3 PPG, 0.6 REB, 0.2 AST. 30.8 % FG.
The Lady Vols are picked to finish second in the SEC, trailing only South Carolina. That projection is the highest for the Lady Vols since the 2015-2016 season.
The Lady Vols are ranked 15th to begin the year in the AP Poll. Making it the first preseason top 25 ranking under Coach Harper.
Lady Vol Rae Burrell was selected for the All-SEC first team, while teammate Tamari Key was selected for the All-SEC second team.
Opening The Season:
The Lady Vols will host Georgia College for a preseason exhibition on Wednesday, November 3rd. They are a Division II school from Milledgeville, Georgia. The Bobcats went 1-13 last season in an all-conference schedule.
The regular season starts on November 10th, when Tennessee hosts Southern Illinois. The Salukis went 9-16 last year, including 5-13 in their conference.
What to Look Forward to:
Excitement should be up for this years Lady Vols basketball season, They return a very dynamic scorer in Rae Burrell, as well as multiple solid role players from last year’s squad that should be ready to make the jump to shouldering more of the load. Look for Marta Suarez and Tamari Key to continue to make the jump to become very good players. It would be hard for Key to improve defensively, as she has been very good from the start, but expanding her game offensively is definitely something the Lady Vols would appreciate greatly. Suarez would also have to want her offensive numbers to make a jump from her 4.1 PPG average from last year.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that Tennessee outperforms their second place preseason ranking, and outright wins, or shares, the regular season SEC Championship.